“The Broken Kingdom” is a Camelot-heavy Once Upon a Time episode, offering a look at what happened after Arthur pulled the broken Excalibur from the stone and what happened during that missing time after Lancelot warned Mary Margaret. In fact, it’s not until the final minutes of the hour that we even get a glimpse of what’s happening back in Storybrooke, and honestly, I miss that little town for most of the episode. Let’s not focus so much on Camelot again, deal?

What’s this version of the love triangle of Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot? Flashbacks to Camelot five years ago hold that answer. What’s Arthur’s plan once he makes Excalibur whole again? One moment in the missing six weeks explains just that. How is Emma planning to make Mr. Gold into the kind of person who can pull Excalibur from the sword? That’s where the reveal of who she has held captive in Storybrooke comes into play.

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Five Years Ago, Obsession (Nearly) Lost a Man His Wife

It actually started many years ago in Camelot, when a young Arthur told a young Guinevere of Merlin’s prophecy, of how he’d pull Excalibur from a stone and be crowned King. She’d be his Queen. Even back then, Kay wanted to be the one to pull the sword from the stone, though in this case, it was just a measly imitation. He reminded Arthur why Camelot was called the broken kingdom: it had no king and never would.

But Guinevere advised Arthur to follow his heart, and so he did find Excalibur (albeit broken) and became obsessed with making it whole again, so obsessed that, in the flashbacks to five years ago, it was Lancelot who put together the party celebrating Guinevere’s birthday and it was his best knight who danced with his wife. Arthur only emerged from his scrolls and translations long enough to announce that he was off to find the dagger.

Arthur left Lancelot behind to protect his queen, and so the knight joined her when she tried to sneak off to find the dagger using Merlin’s gauntlet. Their search led them to the Dark One’s vault, where, after she saved his life, Guinevere kissed Lancelot before backing away. Both agreed it would never happen again. After all, they were there for Arthur.  

When they did find the dagger, it was, of course, magically protected, and Rumplestiltskin showed up to inform them they couldn’t have it. What they could have instead was enchanted sand from Avalon that could fix anything. Guinevere accepted, but she was greeted by an angry Arthur upon her return, since he had witnessed a more-than-friendly parting of ways for her and Lancelot. So she told him he had to make a choice: stop trying to mend the sword or his marriage and his kingdom would be broken forever. Arthur, of course, chose option C: get everything he wanted. He used the sand on her to turn her into the supportive wife who wanted to help him finish his quest and the sand on the kingdom to fix Camelot.

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Here’s One Marriage That Doesn’t Need to Be Fixed with Sand

Five years later, and now that David’s a knight of the round table, Arthur chooses to fill him in on the big secret that Excalibur is broken and the dagger completes it. He thinks that his newest knight is the one who can help him find it, to help make Excalibur what it once was, to destroy the darkness once and for all.

Meanwhile, Emma follows a noise to Regina’s room … and the dagger, which is protected by a spell. Sorry, Dark One whispering in Emma’s ear; this isn’t a case of finders keepers. “You’re the Savior,” he tries to tempt her. “Save yourself before it’s too late.” Instead, Hook finds her, and Regina suggests that she rest somewhere quiet, so Hook and Henry take her away.

That leaves Mary Margaret and David to fight about Lancelot and David. See, she doesn’t think they should trust Arthur after Lancelot’s warning, but he points out that they have zero answers about what happened to the man who married them and why he’s back. Really, given what they know, they both have valid points.

David then returns to Arthur and tells him that they’ll restore Excalibur that night. Oh, and by the way, Lancelot’s back, a fact that Guinevere overhears, and the two of them inform David that there’s more to the story of that love triangle than he knows. (Yes, like the use of certain enchanted sand and whatnot.) When David takes the case the dagger was in out, however, it’s empty.

That’s because Mary Margaret has it, and she and Lancelot head to hide the dagger where it was five years ago. Once there, Arthur comes up behind them and threatens Lancelot’s life until Mary Margaret hands over the dagger. This is when Arthur does the thing that all villains do: explains his entire plan, which gives the good guys just the right amount of time they need to come out as the victors. Now that he can control the Dark One, he can command her to reunite the sword and free Merlin … so he can run him through with Excalibur. Yes, Arthur is planning to kill Merlin. But there’s one flaw in his plan: the dagger’s not real. That’s when David shows up, because while the Charmings’ fight may have been real, they still think about their daughter’s well-being first.
Unfortunately, just as they think they have Arthur beat, his knights and Guinevere show up to free him and to throw Lancelot into the dungeon. They can’t lock up David and Mary Margaret too since the others would know something’s wrong, so instead they use the enchanted sands on them, and when the couple returns to Regina, they tell her that Arthur can be trusted and they should give him the real dagger.

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Can Hook Help Emma Shut up the Dark One?

Henry takes Emma to the stable belonging to Violet‘s family to get away from everyone and everything, and skirts around the subject of his crush before leaving with her to go horseback riding. After Emma admits to seeing the Dark One in her head since they got there, Hook decides to take a page out of the younger couple’s book and take her riding as well.

That doesn’t start off so well, with the horse recoiling from Emma during the introduction and Emma still seeing the Dark One everywhere, but Hook insists she climb on behind him, and after they ride for a bit, it seems to have done the job. She no longer sees the Dark One, and since they’re alone, they have time to share a kiss.

Merida Returns in Two Lands

In Camelot, Lancelot meets Merida, who’s locked up in the cell across from his in the dungeon. An enemy of King Arthur is a friend of hers, she tells him.

And in present-day Storybrooke, Emma has Mr. Gold tied up. “I can’t be the hero you want,” he insists, but she thinks he just needs a bit of sharpening, like a dull knife in a drawer. And who better to do the job than her secret weapon, aka Merida, whom she has tied to the front of her car? Emma takes out her heart and orders her to get her bow. “I need you to make him brave,” she says of the coward she knows.

Once Upon a Time season 5 airs Sundays at 8pm on ABC.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

Meredith Jacobs

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

If it’s on TV — especially if it’s a procedural or superhero show — chances are Meredith watches it. She has a love for all things fiction, starting from a young age with ER and The X-Files on the small screen and the Nancy Drew books. Arrow kicked off the Arrowverse and her true passion for all things heroes. She’s enjoyed getting into the minds of serial killers since Criminal Minds, so it should be no surprise that her latest obsession is Prodigal Son.